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The Role of a Funeral Director

The role of a funeral director is a broad service encompassing practical organisation, support and guidance to the family and liaison with a wide range of other organisations and services to ensure the funeral is properly arranged.

After discussing your requirements, an AIFP funeral provider will arrange the funeral you want, taking on the responsibility for organising every aspect of the event and delivering it to the highest professional standards and taking their lead from your instructions, this might include:-

Before the funeral

  • transferring the deceased to the funeral home or assisting you if you wish the deceased to remain at home prior to the funeral;
  • providing facilities for viewing of the deceased prior to the funeral;
  • dealing with all necessary paperwork;
  • placing death notices in local and/or national newspapers and online.

The funeral service

  • ensuring your wishes and those of the deceased are reflected in the funeral arrangements;
  • arranging any musical requests or other special tributes;
  • arranging funeral vehicles and for catering at a venue of your choice following the funeral;
  • arranging Order of Service booklets at the funeral service;
  • ordering floral tributes and, accepting and caring for floral tributes delivered to their premises prior to the funeral;
  • offering a choice of coffins and caskets to suit a range of budgets and individual choice;
  • accepting donations, online or in person, for a nominated charity in lieu of flowers on your behalf.

After the funeral

  • helping you to arrange for ashes to be scattered or preserved in a memorial casket following a cremation;
  • arranging obituary cards or ‘thank you’ cards;
  • if appropriate, arranging for transfer of either the deceased or the cremated remains to another area of the country, or repatriation overseas.


Employees in the funeral industry

Employees in the funeral industry need a mature and responsible attitude given the sensitive situations they deal with. They are generally working with clients who are emotionally vulnerable, hence a need for excellent communication skills. The funeral service industry is made up of mainly small businesses employing a small number of staff.

Careers in funeral services

  • Funeral director
  • Funeral director's assistant (often called an FDA)
  • Embalmer
  • Mortuary assistant

The funeral industry is acknowledged and respected as one of the most sensitive but highly regarded professions.

Given the diverse nature of the industry you will develop excellent service ethics. Successful funeral directors need to show compassion and empathy in all of their day to day dealings with the community.

A career in funeral services offers many different positions that can be challenging but extremely rewarding. Each of these will help you acquire exceptional communication, people skills and creativity.

There are many career path opportunities available within the funeral services industry. Initially there is the operations side with progression into operation management or in the administrative management areas within a family business or large corporate identity.

A job in the funeral services industry can ensure a successful lifetime career that will enable you to have employment mobility.

Funeral director

The work environment for a funeral director can be both physically and emotionally challenging and sometimes stressful. Funeral directors work irregular hours including evenings and weekends. They are often on call and need to be available when their clients need them. In many businesses, particularly small businesses, a variety of tasks may be performed by one person and the skills needed for these various tasks may need to be acquired.

Funeral directors may perform the following task:

  • Coordinate and supervise funeral workers including drivers, receptionists or clerical assistants;
  • Help to assist families and relatives to discuss the style of funeral, coffin/casket, cars, flowers and costs;
  • Generally assist and support family through ceremonies and other aspects of the funeral process.

Funeral director's assistant

A funeral director's assistant assists in the preparation of funerals, the transportation and placement of coffins and funeral ceremonies.

A funeral director's assistant may perform the following tasks:

  • Collect the body from the hospital, morgue or place of death and drive passenger vehicles, mortuary vans and hearses
  • Assist in preparing the body and placing it in the coffin
  • Escort mourners to funeral chapels
  • Arrange floral tributes and distribute and collect attendance and tribute cards.


An embalmer is charged with the responsibility of the preparation and embalming of deceased persons for the funeral and burial or cremation.

Only after extensive theoretical and practical training can an embalmer possess the required knowledge and qualification in physiology, anatomy, chemistry, biology and other areas that will equip them to carry out the complex procedures required.

An embalmer has the technical skills to embalm a deceased person and can also undertake complex reconstructive work, necessary when a deceased person has been physically traumatised prior to death. Techniques similar to surgical procedures can achieve the complete embalming process.

An embalmer is qualified to preserve the body and the appearance of the deceased. Embalmers preserve the bodies from the time of death until they can be buried or cremated.

An embalmer may perform the following tasks:

  • Work closely with funeral directors to make sure the family’s wishes are met.
  • Keeping the mortuary clean and enforcing health and safety regulations.

Mortuary assistant

A mortuary assistant prepares and participates in the funeral service, from setting our floral arrangements and lighting candles to greeting and directing mourners. A mortuary assistant is involved in virtually all aspects of the funeral from beginning to end.

Mortuary assistants work in funeral homes and support the work of embalmers and funeral directors, they may also assist the embalmer in preparing bodies for viewing.

At the end of the service you may lead people to the cemetery for the graveside service. You may also be in charge of obtaining burial permits for the deceased, and may obtain important documents such as death certificates on behalf of the family.

Mortuary assistants may perform the following tasks:

  • Close the casket at the appropriate time
  • Drive the hearse in the funeral procession